Walmart’s decision to utilize autographed sports memorabilia in its latest online expansion could have a major impact on the industry. Large online retailers don’t enter a merchandising segment without a pretty good idea that a market –and profits—exist.
While stories may float up to the surface about the ‘dying’ sports memorabilia market, nothing could be further from the truth. Some elements of the collecting arena may be struggling, but as long as there are sports fans, there will be a market for memorabilia—signed and otherwise. Fans buy stuff that makes them feel good. Signed pictures, balls, bats and jerseys do that. Walmart and Amazon are two huge retailers who have opened up their online shopping experience to smaller sellers wishing to find a global audience for their inventory. It’s a pretty good deal, actually, for sellers. Their item gain huge exposure. Traffic on sites like Walmart.com and Amazon.com is among the biggest in the world.
I wonder, though, what the impact will be on small sellers. Selling on Amazon and Walmart means you have to be competitive from a pricing angle. For some smaller sellers who don’t buy autographs by the thousands, that’s just not possible.
It’s fairly clear already that players like Pete Rose, Nolan Ryan and others are cranking out fairly large volumes of signed items already.
I suspect the major players in the industry like Steiner Sports, SportsMemorabilia.com and Dreams Inc. (Mounted Memories, etc) will be able to move more toward a margin that allows less profit per item but a higher sales volume if they’re able to push stuff through national online retailers. That could make it tough on the little guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point those behemoth retailers make autograph deals with players all by themselves.